Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins; DeVos and Tax Credit Vouchers: Arizona Shows What Can Go Wrong

With Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration pushing school choice, I’d like to take a look at the debate. First, here are two NYT articles that are quite damning, followed by responses by my friend John Kirtley, a key player in Florida’s choice program, Matthew Ladner, Elizabeth Warren (from her 2003 book), Paul DiPerna in EducationNext, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NY.


Here’s the first NYT article:

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.

But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.

…This is very unusual. When people try to improve education, sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. The successes usually register as modest improvements, while the failures generally have no effect at all. It’s rare to see efforts to improve test scores having the opposite result. Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, calls the negative effects in Louisiana “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature” — not just compared with other voucher studies, but in the history of American education research.

And here’s the second:

DeVos and Tax Credit Vouchers: Arizona Shows What Can Go Wrong

Steve Yarbrough is one of the most powerful men in Arizona. As president of the State Senate, he has promoted a range of conservative policies, including a tuition tax credit system that provides over $100 million per year to finance vouchers for private schools.

In his speech to Congress this week, President Trump singled out a young woman who attended private school using a tax credit-financed voucher. The president urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide similar benefits to millions of students.

But Mr. Yarbrough is not just a champion of tax credit vouchers. He also profits from them personally. The story of how that happened raises questions about President Trump’s campaign promise to spend $20 billion to increase school choice. There’s a strong chance that he’ll do that through tax credit vouchers — a mechanism that Betsy DeVos actively campaigned for before she became Mr. Trump’s education secretary.

…But the shell-game process of moving money from the public treasury to a donor to a nonprofit to a family to a private school makes it very difficult to account for how well those public dollars are ultimately spent.

Tax credit voucher policies vary among states, but most impose few requirements on the private schools that receive them. By contrast, many of the largest new direct voucher programs, where funds go straight from the government to the school, require private schools to administer the same tests given to students in public schools. That’s how researchers were able to determine that vouchers in some states are driving down student test scores to an unprecedented degree.




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